Blaue Donau Revisitied & Two Upcoming MCMP Events

Blaue Donau Revisitied

On a shorter-term notice, in order to coincide with a visit by Harvey Brown, I’ll be giving a talk on some recent work (in collaboration with Jim Weatherall) in Vienna: just a 4-hour railjet away! It’s been almost exactly a year since I last visited, at the end of my European tour.

Two Upcoming MCMP Events

In other news, I’m involved in organizing two upcoming events here at the MCMP.  On December 14th, there will be the Irvine-Munich Workshop on the Foundations of Classical and Quantum Field Theories, co-organized by Karim Thébault.  I’ll be giving a talk on extending a general program for intertheoretic reduction from the case of spacetime to the context of general classical field theories.

Then, on January 30th–31st will be a conference on Quantum Computation, Quantum Information, and the Exact Sciences, co-organized by Michael Cuffaro and Johannes Kofler.  Submissions consisting of a short (~100 word) and an extended (750–1,000 word) abstract aren’t due until November 14th, so if you want to contribute to this multidisciplinary conference you still have time!

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Autumnal Talks and Travels

October is yielding just as much excitement as this past summer of wanderlust, but here at home in Munich!  The term has now commenced, bringing new faces to the MCMP. Having already met some of them, maybe I’ll see more at my talk at the Center’s philosophy of science colloquium series on October 15th, or even on October 14th at the biweekly philosophy of physics reading group on classical mechanics that I’m convening this term.  (The first reading is Mark Wilson‘s entry on “Classical Mechanics” in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

The travel starts again in early November, first to the big tent event—not the Oktoberfest, of course, but the Philosophy of Science Association’s Biennial Meeting! There I’ll be chairing the symposium on the foundations of gravity and thermodynamics, which features many friends and colleagues, including Erik Curiel, Craig Callender, Karim Thébault, Eric Winsburg, Radin Dardashti, Bob Wald, and David Wallace.  It will be my first (albeit brief) return to the US since moving to Munich in late June.

Then, from 17–18 November I’ll be in Bucharest to give a talk at the Philosophy Faculty and participate in a half-day philosophy of physics workshop with Slobodan Perovic, all organized by Iulian Toader.  This (American) Thanksgiving will see me on a flight to Paris to attend a workshop on quantum mechanical entanglement.  I hope to catch up on what’s hot in the subject apropos of a little, germinal project I have on re-evaluating quantum holism.

December will see more travels to interesting new places, first to give a colloquium talk at the University of Salzburg on December 2nd, and then on 8–9 December to Krakow as an honorary participant of the Budapest-Krakow Research Group on Probability, Causality and Determinism.  Finally, I’m organizing an Irvine-Munich workshop (with Karim Thébault) on foundations of field theories that will take place on December 14th.  More on that to come as the details are finalized!

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Long Time No See

Travel, Travel, Travel / Danube Blues

How intense the past half year has been!  I visited the Philosophy and HPS departments at the University of Pittsburgh in March and April, defended my dissertation (successfully!) in June right before presenting some of the work therein  (“Global Spacetime Similarity”) at the poster session of the annual meeting of the Society for Exact Philosophy, and moving to Munich!  The next few months were filled with conferences and summer schools both local and a bit further abroad, and giving me the experiences of seeing just a bit more of Germany.

Just this past week I was in Budapest (for the first time!) to give talks at the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Theoretical Philosophy Forum, Eötvös University.  I hope to go back again to visit more of that vast and beautiful city.

Coming Attractions / London Calling

On October 2-3 I’ll be in Oxford for the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics conference.  I’ll have a poster presenting some new work attempting to complicate the consensus on holism in quantum theory, in particular that entanglement presents a novel mechanism by which holism is manifest.  In a word, it seems that much is already present in the classical theory of stochastic systems!

Afterwards I’ll be loitering around in London on October 5-7 for an encore of Angelo’s Cei‘s talk (“‘Reflections on Atomism, Quantum Mechanics and Mereology”) at LSE’s Sigma Club.  Angelo has unfortunately had to cancel, so yours truly will be filling in on a pinch!

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The Near and Present Future

Present Future

I’m excited to present some new work on “Global Spacetime Similarity” at the IPP2 at UC Irvine later this week (March 20 & 21).  Here’s the abstract for my talk:

There are two classes of topologies most often placed on the space of Lorentz metrics on a fixed manifold. As I interpret a complaint of Geroch (1970, 1971), however, neither of these standard classes correctly captures a notion of global spacetime similarity. In particular, Geroch presents examples to illustrate that one class, the compact-open topologies, in general seems to be too coarse, while another, the open (Whitney) topologies, in general seems to be too fine.  After elaborating further the mathematical and physical reasons for these failures, I then construct a topology that succeeds in capturing a notion of global spacetime similarity and investigate some of its mathematical and physical properties.

Beyond the intrinsic value of being able to compare spacetimes globally, having such a notion also provides a way to make the concept of an approximate (global) spacetime symmetry precise.  Cosmologists and astrophysicists often idealize certain systems of interest (e.g., the universe or an isolated star or black hole) as having particular perfect symmetries, such as being homogeneous and isotropic, or static and spherical symmetric.  One would like to say something definite about why (certain) inferences from these idealized models can produce reliable knowledge about their physical target systems.  I take part of the story to consist in an account of which kinds of inferences are stable when one moves from perfect to approximate symmetry.

After the conference, from March 23 to April 15, I’ll be in the Steel City to visit Profs. Robert Batterman and John D. Norton at the University of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Philosophy and History and Philosophy of Science, respectively.  This trip is the second part of the DDIG-sponsored excursion I’ve mentioned before. I’m looking forward to much discussion about idealization, approximation, and intertheoretic reduction in the physical sciences with them and other dear colleagues at the beautiful Cathedral of Learning.

Near Future

But the biggest and most exciting pieces of news of the season come from Bavaria and the Upper Midwest!  In late June I will join the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilians Universität for 14 months as a Marie Curie Fellow.  Specifically, I will be supported through an International Incoming Fellowship from the Marie Curie Actions program of the European Commission.  I’d encourage other researchers in philosophy to check out this program: although the fellowships are very competitive, they provide some of the most generously funded research opportunities in Europe.

Then, in late August of 2015, I will move to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to join the Department of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as an Assistant Professor.  I’m especially eager to work with my new colleagues there to provide outstanding curricula for students and to be part of all the exciting things happening at the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science.

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Paper, Talk, Chair

No, it’s not a novel variation on roshambo — it’s three updates of note:

  1. My manuscript, “Light Clocks and the Clock Hypothesis,” has just been published in Foundations of Physics.
  2. On 12/5, I’ll be presenting “Reduction and Causal Set Theory’s Hauptvermutung” at UCSD’s Fundamental Nature of Time and Change Research Group at the Center for the Humanities there.
  3. I’ll be chairing the session on “Models and Hypotheses” at the Pacific APA on 4/17, including Greg Gandenberger’s talk, “Why the Law of Likelihood Applies Only to Mutually Exclusive Hypotheses.”

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Blurb on NSF Grant

The School of Social Sciences at UCI has a blurb about my recent grant from the National Science Foundation.

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Visiting Seattle

Through a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, I will be visiting Prof. John Manchak and the University of Washington’s Department of Philosophy from September 29 through October 12.  I’m looking forward to many stimulating conversations regarding similarity among spacetimes and other topics in the foundations of general relativity.

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